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Karl Rankl (Conductor)

Born: October 1, 1898 - Gaaden, near Vienna, Austria
Died: September 6, 1968 - Salzburg, Austria

The Austrian-born English conductor and composer, Karl Rankl was a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg (private sudies for four years beginning in 1918) and Anton Webern in Vienna. From them he acquired fine understanding of the problems of modern music.

Karl Rankl's first appointment was as chorus master at the Volksoper in Vienna in 1922 where he later became an assistant conductor. This was followed by appointments in Liberec in 1925, Königsberg in 1927 and the Kroll Oper in Berlin where he served as assistant to Otto Klemperer from 1928 to 1931. He became associated with Otto Klemperer's advocacy of modern music. After a brief conducting stints in Wiesbaden and Graz (1932-1937), he became director of the Neues Deutsches Theater in Prague (1937-1939). While there he conducted the first performance of Krenek's Karl V.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Karl Rankl took refuge in England and became a British citizen. He became music director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1946, where he significantly reorganized the establishment. He recruited a new company of singers drawing not only from established British singers but also international singers, including Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Ljuba Welitsch, and Paolo Silveri. He significantly expanded the repertory of the company which included German, Italian, Russian and English opera. Inspite of these many positive changes, Rankl garnered a reputation for being difficult with singers, orchestras and producers. Some also criticized his conducting, and his weaknesses were particularly criticized in in his 1950 performances of the Ring Cycle. However, others such as Reginald Goodall, then an assistant conductor, considered these criticisms unfair and felt Rankl was "under-rated".

Nevertheless, Rankl resigned as musical director in 1951 and, in the following year, became conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra, with which he remained for five years (1952-1957). From 1958 to 1960 he conducted the Elizabethan Opera Trust in Sydney2 (according to Wikipedia2, he accepted the post of director of the proposed Sydney Opera, but because of the delay in the completion of the opera house he never had the chance to take up the appointment).

As a composer, Karl Rankl wrote eight symphonies and a string quartet, the latter of which was first performed at Graz in 1936. He also wrote one opera, Deirdre of the Sorrows (based on J.M. Synge's play), which won one of the prizes offered by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain in 1951. He also write an oratorio Der Mensch and many choral works. His reputation today however, lies almost entirely on his work as a conductor. His opera has never been performed and none of his music has ever been published.

1. Wikipedia Website (Sources: F. Frank Howes: "Karl Rankl",
Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy; Accessed: September 20, 2008; The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, by John Warrack and Ewan West, 1992)
2. Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2009)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Karl Rankl


BWV 53 [w/ contralto Mary Jarred]

Links to other Sites

Karl Rankl (Wikipedia)

Interview with Christine Rankl (MusicWeb)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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